Plantinga discusses four areas of engagement between science and religion: fields where there is no conflict at all, but only the illusion of conflict; fields where there is genuine, but superficial and easily resolved, conflict; fields where science and religion are in pleasant concord; and finally a case where there is deep and irresolvable conflict between contemporary science evolutionary biology and religion naturalism. These four areas form the four more or less independent sections of the book. In the section on falsely alleged conflict between science and religion, Plantinga deals with two fields: 1 evolutionary biology and theism, and 2 physics and divine action in the world. Plantinga believes that there is not even a superficial conflict between these scientific disciplines and theology. He who rightly understands them will see that these fields ought to be comprised by the area of concord between science and religion, and anyone who thinks otherwise merely shows that he has not properly understood these disciplines or their implications. With respect to evolutionary biology, Plantinga chastises scientists who have asserted that according to evolutionary biology the evolutionary process is undirected or purposeless.
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ISBN Alvin Plantinga has, in various ways, been engaging with questions regarding science, religion, and naturalism throughout his career. Indeed, he draws heavily from previous work here, re-hashing familiar arguments to build a case for the provocative claim that it is atheism which deeply conflicts with science, not theism. The case is made in four parts. Part 1 begins with biology: Plantinga rightly observes that it is only the view that evolution is unguided, which conflicts with theism.
He then claims that theists ought not worry because, far from ruling out divine guidance, the available evidence only leads to the unimpressive conclusion that unguided evolution is possible.
But this nonchalance is puzzling. All else being equal, we ought to prefer explanations that involve fewer types of entities; even if the evidence is weak, as long as unguided and guided evolution are evidentially equivalent, we should prefer the former, as it involves one fewer supernatural agent. Perhaps Plantinga does not think that the naturalistic and theistic accounts are evidentially equivalent; however, while he quickly asserts that various features of human existence e.
All this is somewhat dissatisfying. The view he defends, that general and special divine action are consistent with contemporary understandings of physical laws as indeterministic is hardly novel, nor is the related view that God acts at the quantum level, causing wave functions to collapse this way or that.
In Part 2, Plantinga argues that the conflict between science and theism comes, not from science proper, but from methodological naturalism, an extra-scientific commitment. To do so, he draws examples from evolutionary psychology in particular, evolutionary psychology of religion and, to a lesser extent, historical biblical criticism.
In each case, Plantinga claims that the scientific theories only conflict with theism when anti-theistic assumptions are smuggled in or when theistic assumptions are omitted. But this latter claim seems trivial. Clearly, scientific theories cannot conflict with theism if theism itself is assumed to be true. But why should it be? Furthermore, can any belief be thusly assumed as true? Perhaps he thinks that the former is a legitimate reading of the Old Testament, whereas the latter is not; however, no principles for biblical interpretation are provided.
The arguments get more technical in Part 3, as Plantinga examines arguments for theism from cosmological fine-tuning and biological complexity. The discussion about fine- tuning is a good introduction to this debate. The argument begins with the premise that for life to evolve, certain conditions must obtain and, given the massive range of possible conditions, the fact that the universe is conducive to life requires explanation; the argument concludes that theism best explains the apparent fine-tuning of the universe.
Somewhat surprisingly, Plantinga concludes that fine-tuning arguments provide only modest support for theism, though it is not entirely clear to me why this is.
Similarly, Plantinga demurs from making much of Intelligent Design-esque claims that biological complexity supports theism. This is meant, I think, to confer our design beliefs with the epistemic legitimacy that our other perceptions e.
If so, this seems a bit of a stretch. Theism, Plantinga claims, provides the assumptions science needs to get off the ground, in the God-given reliability of human perception and cognition, the intelligibility and regularity of the physical world, etc.
Again, these are not novel claims, and can be found elsewhere. Very roughly, Plantinga argues that science requires us to trust our cognitive and perceptual faculties; however, naturalism provides us no reason to do so, as the view that these faculties evolved by unguided natural selection entails only that they should generate fitness- increasing beliefs rather than truth-tracking ones.
Ergo, naturalism cannot provide the assumptions we need to do science. In contrast, as mentioned above, theism can. While much ink has been poured on this already, I wonder whether the naturalist could just assert that her trust in her epistemic faculties is a basic belief that enjoys the kind of warrant that Plantinga usually claims his theistic beliefs enjoy qua basic beliefs. Prima facie, her claim seems more legitimate than his, but that is a matter to be resolved at greater length elsewhere.
No doubt, Where the Conflict Really Lies will generate much discussion among people interested in science and religion. Related Papers.
Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism
Start your review of Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism Write a review Aug 30, John Quin rated it really liked it This book is aimed at someone with a little familiarity with philosophy. The flow of the book seemed a little jilted and I got the impression that Plantinga collated a bunch of his previously published material together into a book. In fact Plantinga seemed to leave no objection unaddressed. Sometimes I found this a bit monotonous but I guess years of being a philosopher at the highest level has trained him to always present a watertight case. I did however find his appraisal of the teleological argument as disappointing as it seem to be much stronger argument than Plantinga has presented it. He seemed to fall back to his safety zone of epistemology in seeing design as a properly basic belief.
Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism Alvin Plantinga Abstract This book is a long-awaited major statement by a pre-eminent analytic philosopher, on one of our biggest debates—the compatibility of science and religion. The last twenty years has seen a cottage industry of books on this divide, but with little consensus emerging. The theme of this short book is that the conflict between science and theistic religion is actually superficial, and that at a deeper level they are in concord. The book examines where this confli More This book is a long-awaited major statement by a pre-eminent analytic philosopher, on one of our biggest debates—the compatibility of science and religion. The book examines where this conflict is supposed to exist—evolution, evolutionary psychology, analysis of scripture, scientific study of religion—as well as claims by Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Philip Kitcher that evolution and theistic belief cannot co-exist. The book makes a case that their arguments are not only inconclusive but that the supposed conflicts themselves are superficial, due to the methodological naturalism used by science.